Aggie Parasitologists Represent Texas A&M At American Heartworm Society Symposium

Story by Megan Myers, VMBS Communications

Parasitology group at the symposium
Drs. Meriam Saleh, Sarah Lane, Guilherme Verocai, Kaitlyn Upton, and Caroline Sobotyk

A group of veterinary parasitologists from the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (VMBS) gave presentations on their recent research at the American Heartworm Society’s (AHS) Triennial Symposium earlier this month.

The symposium—which is held every three years for presenting the latest research on heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) disease, diagnosis, and prevention—took place from Sept. 8-11 in New Orleans. This year’s theme was “Today’s Discoveries, Tomorrow’s Practice” and highlighted the bridge between research and practice.

Those in attendance representing the VMBS were Drs. Meriam Saleh and Guilherme Verocai, clinical assistant professors in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology (VTPB); Dr. Kaitlyn Upton ’22, a recent veterinary graduate now completing a large animal internship at the University of Tennessee; and Dr. Caroline Sobotyk, a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania who recently completed her residency and postdoctoral research in Verocai’s lab.

“Being able to attend the American Heartworm Society Triennial Symposium as part of the A&M team was fantastic,” Saleh said. “The AHS symposium is unique in that it only happens every three years, it combines research findings with continuing education for practitioners, and it is well-attended by both scientists and veterinarians.”

Verocai at a podium discussing reearch
Verocai presenting research at the symposium

The team gave presentations on several recent heartworm research projects conducted at the VMBS, with topics including heartworm detection, biomarkers, and prevalence.

“Some folks may think that heartworm is all figured out, but there is so much we don’t know, especially about heartworm in cats,” Saleh said. “While we have heartworm prevention for dogs and cats, not everyone uses it, and it really is a shame because heartworms cause a horrible multisystemic disease that can be fatal, but is preventable.

“You can’t detect heartworm infections until six to seven months after they happen, so earlier detection of infections is an area of research that Dr. Verocai’s lab works on quite a bit,” she continued. “It is because of things like this that conducting heartworm research is still important, and AHS is such a great avenue to share what we are working on, as most of the veterinarians who attend are very interested in heartworms and likely see a lot of cases in their clinics.”

The team’s presentations included:

Upton and Graham doing gig 'ems
Drs. Kaitlyn Upton and Wallace Graham
  • Saleh: “Evaluation of urine for Dirofilaria immitis antigen detection in dogs”
  • Verocai: “Temporal patterns of Dirofilaria immitis–derived microRNA populations in serum of experimentally infected dogs in the search for novel diagnostic biomarkers” and “Probe-based qPCR as an alternative Knott’s test when screening dogs for heartworm infection in combination with antigen detection tests”
  • Upton: “Heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, in carnivores kept in zoos located in Texas, USA: Risk perception, practices, and prevalence”
  • Sobotyk: “Detection of Dirofilaria immitis via integrated serological and molecular analyses in coyotes from Texas, USA” and “Assessing the field performance of a cell-phone based video-microscope for diagnosing heartworm infections in dogs”

The Verocai Lab team was excited to meet up with several fellow Aggies at the symposium, including Dr. Sarah Lane ’22, who previously served as the VMBS’ AHS student representative, and Dr. Wallace Graham ’75, a past-president of the AHS.

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For more information about the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of VMBS Communications, Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216


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